Friday, May 10, 2013

The Most Rational Decision

First of all, I am researching suicide for my next book. I have to say that, because when friends and family notice you are writing, reading, and talking a lot about suicide, they get a little concerned. I am not planning to kill myself; at least not until the last season of Mad Men is over.

One of the texts I am revisiting for research is Albert Camus' Myth of Sisyphus. It was a big deal to me in high school, although I didn't totally understand it. A few things that Camus assert or eludes to in this work is that, in a way, suicide is the most rational decision. Life is devoid of natural meaning, thus the most rational answer to a world of that nature is to kill yourself. However, Camus does not endorse suicide. Rather, he suggests that we embrace the absurd by revolting against this natural conclusion by living. He suggests that really, we only begin to live once we realize life is meaningless, but choose to continue living anyway. We must, he suggests, make our passions our path, and recognize the humor of being a sentient, meaning-seeking creature in an unthinking, meaningless universe.

Camus has an interesting take, but it misses the issue of mental health, which is one of the major underlying contributors to suicide. The blackness of depression is not a close relative of absurd recognition. It is a closer relative to a cancer eating away at the brain of its victim.

But people manufacture stories that explain suicide: survivors and victims alike do this. They have to, because humans need stories, and survivors want answers. So by his own logic, Camus' reasons for and against are just as good as any other story we tell ourselves, but I would caution people about accepting that extreme suffering must be a natural companion to life. There is something of the dialectic in Camus' reasoning, and--while suffering will no doubt come--it is not the necessary mainstay of life. Struggle, however, is the necessary mainstay of life, and it manifests itself in friction created by struggling--or 'revolt' as Camus puts it--between the acceptance of the emptiness of all things and the queer human desire for narrative.

The only reason I didn't start smoking in High School is that I realized I would never look as cool with a cigarette in my mouth as Albert Camus.

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